What’s happening at the Shetland Textile Museum ?

It’s June, the garden at Da Böd is in full leaf, but the shutters are firmly covering the windows, the CLOSED sign is still up on the gate, and there’s not a tourist to be seen. The shop is empty, the display cabinets dark, and Brita, our seasonal Custodian, is still impatiently waiting to be allowed to leave Sweden to join her husband, who arrived in Shetland just before lockdown.

Normally at this time of year, all the Trustees and Volunteers would be extremely busy. Visitors would be standing expectantly waiting for the door to be unlocked and the boarded jumpers to be put out, signalling ”We’re open!” Perhaps a tour group from the States, or a cluster of Scandinavians hoping to see Jimmy Perez’s house, and buy knitwear at the same time. Sometimes a group of Japanese, with bemused interpreter, or an intrepid cruise ship passenger who successfully navigated from town to find us. We’d often have several volunteers in the house, demonstrating knitting, spinning, even weaving – the lifeblood of the museum, who bring our textile heritage alive for those who take the time to chat.

But for the past few months the Böd has stood empty. Each week, one of the Trustees checks the building, reads the electricity meter, empties the dehumidifier and collects the post. We’ve had some entries for our biennial competition, but this has had to be postponed till next year. Most of the 30+ pre-booked tours have been cancelled, although one optimistic Swedish group is still holding on for a September visit – who knows…….. ?

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. We’ve decided to carry on with preparations for the planned exhibitions, which will probably be repeated next year, so not a wasted effort. This we can do mostly from home, as we have a comprehensive digitalised record of the items in our Collection. The Curators are making lists, writing descriptions, trying to visualise the cabinets full of Fair Isle and lace, then changing their minds and starting again . We can go into the building, but setting up the exhibitions might prove more challenging if social distancing is still in place ! We do hope we’ll get a couple of months when we can open, even with reduced hours, but we’ll be relying very much on visits from Shetland residents rather than tourists.

We’ve also managed to find an outlet for the talented “makkers” who fill the shelves of our shop during the season , many of whom are also volunteers in the Museum. People “fae aa da airts” can now commission their own piece of Shetland textile heritage, by contacting us through our Facebook page or website, where they can see photos of the sort of items we’d normally sell in the shop, but can’t. We then pass the request on to the makker, resulting in some very happy customers , including some who had to cancel their plans to come to Wool Week.

Even the more “mature” Trustees have embraced the charms of Zoom, enjoying virtual meetings, including a very socially-distant Brita – thank goodness we have a youngster on the Board to keep us right, though !

So we’re still here, still planning, and hoping to welcome as many of you as possible when we’re allowed to open the doors again.